With A Little Help from My Friends

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When I was an impressionable teens back in the 90s, I was awestruck by the concept of adult friendship as presented on TV. It would appear that one would have an invaluable circle of 4 or 5 close friends, whom you will hang out with all the time. Of course, one must understand this in the context of the quintessential 90s sitcom, Friends, where attractive adults with seemingly little work commitments sat around all day in a coffeehouse, while bantering about everything under the sun.

Of course, now that I am an adult with responsibilities, I have the epiphany that real-life friendships are not nearly as awesome as TV friendships. Simply put, friends grow apart and slowly drift away, often due to extenuating factors such as work commitments, spousal approval/disapproval, kids, health issues and the saddest reason of all – boredom with the status quo.

Since real-life adult friendships have turned out to be so underwhelming, let’s not dwell on it and focus on the awesome TV friendships in the new millennium. With Community bidding a final fond farewell to TV land in what is admittedly a fairly weak season, how will viewers get through the sad, lonely nights without the presence of the lovable folks from Greendale Community College? Thankfully, the replacements are in.

Girls

Since I had never really been part of any art communities, I cannot personally attest to the level of obnoxiousness as displayed by Hannah and her friends as they stumbled their way through the insular art world of New York in Season 4 of the HBO hit comedy. Yet, even as characters can come across as too hipster for their own good, there is a tinge of authenticity in the whole series. Apartments in the show are decidedly grimy. Upcoming singer-songwriters stints are poorly attended. Art shows thread the fine line between absurd and ingenuity. Friends trade caustic barbs as much as they share words of support.

Season 4 also saw a cameo from Gillian Jacobs (Britta in Community) who played Mimi-Rose Howard, a successful artist whose mild demeanour belie her radical actions which include a swift abortion of a baby and a readiness to give up a relationship with Adam, all delivered with the degree of afterthought afforded to choosing a lunch item from a menu. Meanwhile, both Jessa and Ray have no qualms about sabotaging their friends’ relationships guiltlessly for their own personal gains. Although, to Ray’s credit, he was spot on in his assessment of Marnie’s and Dizzy’s relationship. With friends like these, do you really need enemies?

Silicon Valley

Of the three communities that I listed here in this post, the one portrayed in Silicon Valley is the one that I feel the closest affinity to. Nope, I have not worked in a tech start-up before, although I was a software developer for four years in a technology company. The mild social awkwardness, the geeky tangential topics derailing a discussion (mean jerk time, anyone?) and the friendly competitiveness between your peers on who had mad skills are all traits I can easily identify from my previous employment.

Silicon Valley is a comedy that lampoons the whole tech culture as much as it celebrates the hardy entrepreneurs behind the scene. One of the best lines in Season 2 was “I don’t want to live in a world where someone else makes the world a better place than we do”, as spoken by Hooli CEO Gavin Belson. That pretty much nailed the whole vague, self-serving philanthropy that the real Silicon Valley seems so intent of ramming down the world’s throat in recent years. Hooli is, of course, modelled after the Googles and Facebooks of the real world. Does anyone still remember Google’s corporate motto of “Don’t Be Evil”? It seems so far away now, huh.

In any case, Silicon Valley is kind of a fun, twisted take on the chaotic world of tech start-ups and opportunistic venture capitalism. Moreover, who can resist Dinesh and Gilfoyle’s constant hijinks to foil each other?

 

Penny Dreadful

If the art world of Girls and tech world of Silicon Valley are too wholesome for you, perhaps the gothic macabre that Penny Dreadful serves up will be more your aspired lifestyle? That is, if you do not mind the relentless gore and the regular demonic possessions.

While Season 1 of Penny Dreadful was somewhat tame and derivative of Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Season 2 upped the ante rather considerably. The vampires in Season 1 may have been lame and easily despatched, but Season 2’s witches certainly brought on the chill and sinister vibes. Who can forget the gruesome scene where head witch Evelyn methodically transplant a baby heart from said innocent into one of those creepy dolls? Or Vanessa Ives’ (played to perfection by Eva Green) multiple demonic possessions?

Like your own friends, these strange bedfellows hide secrets from one another. Ethan Chandler was an exorcist-werewolf-extraordinaire, all aspects of which remained unexplained on the show. Meanwhile, nobody seemed to be wiser that morphine-addicted Dr Frankenstein enjoy performing reanimation ops in his spare time. Although, given the nature of their work, I am sure his friends would understand. But then again, they might not be immune to the double standards and negging that you and I so love to indulge in.

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